In 2007, the Pituvik Landholding Corporation (PLC) mandated RSW Inc. (RSW) to perform a prefeasibility level study to identify sites along the Inukjuak and Kongut Rivers and examine the possibility of producing part or all of the electrical needs of the community from hydroelectric sources. It was demonstrated that one site, called Site I3, which is located on the Inukjuak River, satisfies all the anticipated basic demand in addition to a large proportion of the heating demand on a 20 year horizon, termed the project life. Although a hydroelectric facility can generally last for 40 to 50 years without major refurbishing, this period was selected as the basis for the studies due to the rapidly changing situation in regards to high population growth.
The results of the prefeasibility study were presented to the community in the spring of 2008, where the population of Inukjuak approved continuing to the next phase: the completion of a Feasibility Study as well as conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). RSW began work on both of these documents at the end of 2008.
In parallel to the two studies, the PLC initiated steps to obtain financing for the technical studies and the project’s construction. A Gas Emissions Study (GES) was also performed in order to evaluate the amount of emissions that would be eliminated by the completion of the project. This study found that with the implementation of the project, the community as a whole would reduce its carbon footprint by an estimated 8000 tonnes of CO2 emissions during the first year of operation, attaining 15000 tonnes after 10 years of operation and this, while only considering the supply of hydroelectric energy to satisfy the basic energy demand.
Discussions were also initiated with Hydro-Quebec Distribution’s (HQD) isolated grid subdivision with the aim of establishing a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA). With HQD being responsible for providing energy for the basic energy demand, technical committees were also set up so as to define the technical and regulatory requirements of the installations that will replace the current diesel power generation. These included:
•Transmission and interconnection;
•Redundancy of equipment;
•Preparation of the approval of the PPA to be presented to the Régie de l’énergie du Québec;
•The phasing out of the diesel generators.
The project consists in an 8 MW facility with a 15 m high Roller-Compacted Concrete (RCC) spillway-dam with an integrated intake and two 120 m long high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and steel penstocks leading to two vertical Saxo axial turbine-generator (TG) units housed within a small powerhouse. Due to HQD’s redundancy criteria, one unit is sufficient for providing energy for all the basic demand for a 20 year horizon, which allows for the possibility of using the standby unit for the production of energy destined for the heating of houses and water. However, the latter possibility is dependant on the conversion of the oil-furnaces that are currently installed in the houses and buildings of Inukjuak to bi-energy units.
The remainder of the works of the project consist in a tailrace channel, excavated on the north
riverbank, which discharges the flow routed to the powerhouse back into the river and a 10 km long, 25 kV transmission line beginning at the powerhouse which transits the energy produced at the generating station to the existing Hydro-Québec distribution substation and grid.
The feasibility study essentially shows that a hydroelectric facility can be constructed near the village of Inukjuak, and would provide 100% of base load energy for the next 20 years as well as satisfy a substantial portion (from 80% to 50 %) of the heating demand.
Furthermore, the study shows that there is no economic value in limiting the electrical production of the plant to the base load only, as the dam and other components of the project are required to ensure the redundancy and the reliability of the production equipment. As a result, the surplus energy must be sold to replace heating needs, which may require changes to certain regulatory aspects. The government of Québec needs to be informed that without modifications to the present situation, it will be very difficult to replace fuel-based energy by renewable energy in Nunavik.
Even though the realization costs are much larger than in sourthern parts of the province, the selling rate of energy is still competitive with regards to the existing operating costs of HQD’s four diesel generators and the fuel-oil furnaces used for space and water heating.
With the untapped potential of its neighbouring river, Inukjuak could very well be one of the first remote communities of northern Canada to reduce a large proportion of its dependency on hydrocarbon-based energy by replacing it with renewable energy, thus reducing the community’s greenhouse gas emissions.